Hey, pssst. If you’re going to be taking the advanced-placement biology test, Ankur Jain will be totally OK with you looking at his work. He won’t even charge you to do it.
No, nobody is cheating here. Jain, a 16-year-old rising senior at Flintridge Prep, has created an app to help students study for the AP bio test. It’s called BioPrep. It’s free. It’s for your iPhone. And it’s catching on in a hurry.
Downloaded more than 10,000 times by students across the country, Jain’s app has a rating of 4.5 out of 5, after about 450 ratings. Clean and user-friendly, it offers students an opportunity to quiz themselves on 700 original multiple-choice questions on 15 biology topics, all similar to what they’ll see on the AP biology exam.
“I was sitting there trying to figure out how to prepare for this tedious AP biology exam,” said Jain, who reports, with a big smile, that he got a 5 on the test. “The exam is known for being heavy on memorization; that’s the tough part about it. So I thought, ‘What if I had a system where I could do multiple-choice kind of fashion?’
“I did research online, thinking, ‘Maybe there’s some app I can do this with?’ But I couldn’t find anything that was, first of all, free … or I couldn’t figure out how to navigate them and they weren’t really user-friendly.”
So he decided to build one himself, because that’s what he does.
“Ankur is something of a tech genius around campus,” said Elida Kocharian, whose notes helped Jain build the app over the six weeks it took him to input all of the information during lunchtime and late into the night. “Ankur does amazing things.”
As a sophomore, Jain and his Flintridge Prep classmate Mateo Abascal won “Hack for L.A.” by creating ShelterConnect, a website that links homeless shelters with clients, restaurants and volunteer organizations with food to donate.
They’re still refining the project, streamlining it so that anyone with food to donate can tap in.
He was also working on a math app that utilized optical character recognition to make out equations and answer them — but another company beat him to it.
Jain is spending his summer working full time as an intern for Caltech’s Azita Emami, helping her team by designing an Android app that can wirelessly receive data from medical chips implanted in a person’s skin.
He also has an idea brewing for a trivia app by which each correct answer would mean 10 grains of rice are donated, similar to the freerice.com on which he and classmates played as students at Paradise Canyon Elementary School.
“When he comes up with an idea, he makes notes on his cellphone,” mom Indu Jain said. “I tell him, ‘Ankur, why are you always looking at your cellphone?’ He says, ‘Mom, my ideas don’t come when I’m sitting at table and chair. Ideas come any time.’ I’ll be driving and he’s sitting next to me and something pops up in his mind and he’ll just type it on his notepad. He just looks around at things and says, ‘Oh! That’s good.’ He’s very observant. He’s very creative.
“You never know, a kid like him can maybe someday come up with something that makes impossible things possible.”
Jain said he hoped the BioPrep app would prove useful to his peers at Prep, whose honest feedback he welcomed (mainly: Tone down the crazy colors). He wasn’t prepared, however, for how swiftly the app “skyrocketed,” or that he’d soon be receiving feedback from students across the country.
“First I told a couple of friends and it spread around school,” Jain said. “I had people telling me, ‘Oh, this is really cool. But it would be cooler if you used another color scheme.’ So after I tweaked it a little bit, I decided to go public.
“I was doing this study group online on Facebook called Biology Olympiad and I posted it there: ‘I made something, you might find it helpful. Let me know?’ I posted that around 9 or 10 at night and then when I woke up, there were all these comments and reactions to it, and people were like, ‘Thank you so much, this is so cool!’”
Jain — an Android phone user who figured out how to build an iOS app on a Windows laptop to bring BioPrep to iPhone-loving teens — said he has no intention of ever charging for the app, no matter how successful it gets.
“Never,” he said. “If it had ads on it, maybe fewer people would download it, and I wouldn’t want that. The idea is to reach the widest audience I can, and if that means no ads and the cleanest interface and making it completely free, yes, totally, that’s what I’m doing.”